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Oklahoma 2012 State Questions

ballot questionsOklahomans will be voting on six state questions this November and none appear to be rising to the level of controversy that past questions have generated.  Here is a brief look at the questions, summary from the Secretary of State’s website and my take on each.

State Question 758 – “The measure deals with real property taxes also called ad valorem taxes. These taxes are based on several factors. One factor is the fair cash value of the property.

The measure changes the limits on increases in fair cash value. Now, increases are limited to 5% of fair cash value in any taxable year.

The measure changes the cap on increases to 3% for some property. The 3% cap would apply to homestead exempted property. The cap would also apply to agricultural land.

The measure also removes obsolete language.”

Reducing the maximum increase in property taxes from 5% to 3% is taxpayer friendly and should absolutely be passed.  Since almost 60% of Oklahoma property taxes go to schools I expect the teachers union and the education lobby to oppose passage of this measure. They’d vote for an increase if they could.

State Question 759 – “The measure deals with three areas of government action. These areas are employment, education and contracting.

In these areas, the measure does not allow affirmative action programs. Affirmative action programs give preferred treatment based on race, color or gender. They also give preferred treatment based on ethnicity or national origin. Discrimination on these bases is also not permitted.

The measure permits affirmative action in three instances. 1. When gender is a bonafide qualification, it is allowed. 2. Existing court orders and consent decrees that require preferred treatment will continue and can be followed. 3. Affirmative action is allowed when needed to keep or obtain federal funds.

The measure applies to the State and its agencies. It applies to counties, cities and towns. It applies to school districts. It applies to other State subdivisions.

The measure applies only to actions taken after its approval by the people.”

Removing affirmative action programs is long overdue.  There is no legitimate reason for keeping them.  Some minorities will, no doubt, oppose passage of this measure.  To them, I will just say – “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King, Jr.”

State Question 762 – “This measure amends Section 10 of Article 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution. It changes current law, decreasing the power and authority of the Governor by removing the Governor from the parole process for persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses. It enlarges the power and authority of the Pardon and Parole Board by authorizing that Board, in place of the Governor, to grant parole to persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses.

The Legislature defines what offenses are nonviolent offenses and the Legislature may change that definition.

The measure authorizes the Pardon and Parole Board to recommend to the Governor, but not to itself grant, parole for persons convicted of certain offenses, specifically those offenses identified by law as crimes for which persons are required to serve not less than eighty-five percent of their sentence prior to being considered for parole and those designated by the Legislature as exceptions to nonviolent offenses. For those offenses for which persons are required to serve a minimum mandatory period of confinement prior to being eligible to be considered for parole, the Pardon and Parole Board may not recommend parole until that period of confinement has been served.”

Oklahoma is the last state to require the Governor’s approval for all paroles.  I could not be more opposed to changing this.  Unelected board members have proven earlier this year that they are unwilling to follow state law and require offenders to serve 85% of their sentence.  Personally, I believe offenders should serve 100% of their sentence.  Voters have no recourse against board members but do have recourse against an elected Governor who is required to put pen to paper and approve a release.

State Question 764 – “This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It adds a new Section 39A to Article 10. It would allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds. Any bonds issued would be used to provide a reserve fund for the Board. The fund would be a reserve fund for certain water resource and sewage treatment funding programs. The fund could only be used to pay other bonds and obligations for the funding programs. The bonds could only be issued after other monies and sources are used for repayment. The bonds would be general obligation bonds. Not more than Three Hundred Million Dollars worth of bonds could be issued. The Legislature would provide the monies to pay for the bonds. The Legislature would provide for methods for issuing the bonds. The Legislature would provide for how the fund is administered.”

Absolutely not.  Oklahoma already has enough debt and adding more is not fiscally responsible.  Whether the water resource and sewage treatment programs are needed or not, there will always be worthwhile projects that could be done if we are willing to add to our debt to pay for them.  Do we really want to keep adding to our debt to pay for program after program?  No!

State Question 765 – “The measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It abolishes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services and the position of Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. These entities were created under different names by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of Article 25 of the Oklahoma Constitution and given duties and responsibilities related to the care of the aged and needy. The measure repeals these sections of the Constitution and consequently, removes the power of the Commission of Human Services to establish policy and adopt rules and regulations. Under the measure, the Legislature and the people by initiative petition retain the power to adopt legislation for these purposes.

The measure adds a provision to the Constitution authorizing the Legislature to create a department or departments to administer and carry out laws to provide for the care of the aged and the needy. The measure also authorizes the Legislature to enact laws requiring the newly-created department or departments to perform other duties.”

This measure will fix an accountability problem with DHS.  Currently, the Commission consists of unelected, uncompensated volunteers who make decisions based on the information provided by DHS staff.  Since 1936 this Commission has provided cover for legislators and governors seeking to avoid oversight accountability.  Passage of this measure will make the DHS director appointed by and accountable directly to the Governor and, by extension, the voters.

State Question 766 – “This measure amends Section 6A of Article 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. At present that section exempts some intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation. This measure would exempt all intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation.

An ad valorem property tax is a tax imposed upon the value of property.

Intangible Personal Property is property whose value is not derived from its physical attributes, but rather from what it represents or evidences.

Intangible Personal Property which is still currently taxed but would not be taxed if the measure is adopted, includes items such as:

o patents, inventions, formulas, designs, and trade secrets;
o licenses, franchise, and contracts;
o land leases, mineral interests, and insurance policies;
o custom computer software; and
o trademarks, trade names and brand names.

If adopted, the measure would apply to property taxation starting with the tax year that begins on January 1, 2013″

Taxing intangibles is very subjective and likely to vary from county to county. How do you quantify the value of a client list or a professional license?  The business community in Oklahoma largely supports passing this measure.  Public schools and other recipients of ad valorem taxes oppose passage.  Unless Oklahomans want to add to the tax burdens on local businesses and further strangle our economy, this measure should be passed.

2 comments to Oklahoma 2012 State Questions

  • Good and concise roundup of the state questions. I’m not sure I would disagree with any of your assessment. I especially agree with what you said about SQ 762. The last thing we need is for the parole system to be under the control of unelected bureaucrats.

    • I’d say they proved earlier this year why that would be disastrous. Someone accountable to the voters needs to be in charge. Someone who can pay the price for a wrong decision. Just ask Michael Dukakis how that worked out for him.

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